McKenna, Fred

Fred McKenna. Singer, guitarist, songwriter, b Fredericton 17 Feb 1934, d Toronto 18 Nov 1977. Born blind, McKenna was raised in Fredericton but educated at the Halifax School for the Blind. He began playing the guitar at 11, holding the instrument across his lap in the manner of a Hawaiian guitar and chording with three fingers of his left hand. He also played the mandolin and the fiddle in this fashion. In his late teens he began performing throughout the Maritimes, and later he won a talent contest which led to a performance in Wheeling, WV, on WWVA radio's 'Jamboree'. This in turn brought him to the attention of Don Messer.

McKenna began his TV career on the CBC's 'Don Messer's Jubilee' in 1958 and joined the cast of 'Singalong Jubilee' in 1961. Though he moved to Toronto in 1968 he continued to travel to Halifax for appearances on that show, and on CBC TV's 'Countrytime,' until 1973. He also was a regular performer on Harry Hibbs' 'At the Caribou' and toured extensively on his own in eastern Canada. In 1973 he became music director of the privately syndicated 'George Hamilton IV Show' (from Hamilton, Ont), a position he held at his death. McKenna began recording for the Rodeo label in the 1950s and later made three LPs for Arc and one for RCA, some of which included his own songs.